"Youth is a gift of nature, but age is a work of art."

You're Never Too Old to Laugh

© copyright Ed Fischer from You're Never Too Old to Laugh with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

Place Names That Work Well as Names for People

by Bruce Lansky

Place names usually fit into three categories. The first category covers most place names: They probably wouldn’t work well for people. For example, Monongahela (the river in Pennsylvania), Sheboygan (the town in Wisconsin) and Georgetown (the neighborhood in Washington, D.C.) aren’t names you’re likely to hear in a kindergarten classroom. The first two names lack the romantic appeal of Paris, the charm of Siena, or the “trendy” image of Brooklyn. They’re also rather long and hard to spell. Georgetown is easy to spell and has appeal—it’s a cool, upscale neighborhood (and outstanding university)—but the suffix    (-town) makes it less appropriate as a name for people.

The second category contains place names that are often used for people—even though they still sound more like names for places. Brooklyn is one example and London is another. Both are gaining in popularity as baby names, though they may not seem as appropriate as, say, India or Georgia. Of course, perceptions can change over time. “Indiana Jones” is probably the reason Indiana is considered an acceptable name for people. Before the movie, few people thought of Indiana as a person’s name. For that reason, I think it’s in that mezzo-mezzo (or comme ci, comme ca) category—it might sound cool to some people, but not to others. Ditto for Boston and Denver.

That brings us to the third category, place names that seem to work easily and well for people. By that I mean, they’re quickly recognized as baby names and don’t cause most people to think, Are you talking about a city or a girl? They’re usually short and sweet and many of them (like Charlotte and Virginia) were names for people before they were place names. Here are some examples:

Names of Countries:
For Girls: India, China, Kenya For
Boys: Cuba, Chad

Names of States and Provinces:
For Girls: Alberta (Canada), Dakota (U.S.), Georgia (U.S.)

Names of Cities and Towns:
For Girls: Charlotte (North Carolina), Florence (Italy), Madison (Wisconsin), Savannah (Georgia), Siena (Italy), Sydney (Australia)
For Boys: (San) Diego (California), Frisco (Colorado), Reno (Nevada), Rio (Brazil)

Names of Bodies of Water:
For Girls: Bristol (Bay), (Lake) Louise
For Boys: Hudson (River and Bay), Nile (River), Rocky (Mountains)

Two observations:

  1. I think you can easily see the difference between the names in the third category (place names that work well for people) and the names in the first category (place names that don’t).
  2. I hope you can see that the names in the second category (place names commonly used for people that are kind of, sort of, pretty good for people) don’t work quite as well as the names in the third category.

I want to encourage you to think about the difference in suitability of place names for people—and what factors make them work (or not work). Does the place sound like a name for a child? Does it make a positive impression? Will it lead to teasing? Is it easy to spell and pronounce?

My son, a travel writer, was born in the U.S. and now lives in Sweden. When thinking of names that would make a positive impression in both countries for his three daughters, he selected place names that were easy to spell and pronounce, and familiar to people in both countries, and they’ve worked very well.

So if you’re thinking of picking up a globe, spinning it, and finding a city, state, country, body of water or group of mountains for your child’s name, keep in mind that most place names don’t make comfortable, charming, cool names for people. And clunky place names, like Turkey or Greece (even though you may love visiting those places) could turn out to be a bad trip for your baby.

© 2013 Bruce Lansky from Baby Names in the News

New Titles from Meadowbrook Press

Two new titles are available this fall from Meadowbrook Press!

Picture of Spanish Without Words

Spanish Without Words (Paperback, $6.00) by David Tarradas Agea is a unique and hilarious "phrase book" of almost 100 photos of the most common Spanish expressions and body language. It’s the fastest and funniest way to learn Spanish ever published.

Now, even if you don’t know a single word of Spanish, you can learn the most common greetings and expressions, dinner-table comments, hot vows of love, bargaining tricks, insults, threats and curses. This humorous book shows you how. There’s no faster or funnier way to bridge the language gap in Spain or Latin America, at family events or with friends.

Picture of The Fitness Fun Busy Book

The Fitness Fun Busy Book (previously titled The Wiggle & Giggle Busy Book)(Paperback, $9.95) by Trish Kuffner contains 365 creative, lively games and activities to keep toddlers and preschoolers busy and active. It provides great alternatives to watching TV, playing video games, or doing other sedentary activities. It shows parents and daycare providers how to:

  • Inspire a love of physical exercise with games and activities that encourage a child to move.
  • Focus a child’s energy constructively.
  • Encourage a child to develop large and small motor skills.
  • Connect music and rhyme with physical expression to develop a child’s creativity.
  • Celebrate holidays and other occasions with special games and activities that get everyone moving.

Both Spanish Without Words and The Fitness Fun Busy Book are available nationwide in stores, online, and available directly from Meadowbrook Press.

"Advice from Dracula"

Advice from Dracula

© copyright Kenn Nesbitt from Dinner with Dracula with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

Chocolate Spiders

The Arts & Crafts Busy Book

by Trish Kuffner

What You'll Need:

2/3 cup chocolate chips
Saucepan or microwave-safe bowl
2 cups chow mein noodles
Baking sheet
Wax paper
Small red candies


Melt the chocolate chips in a saucepan on the stove or melt them in a bowl in the microwave. Toss the noodles with the melted chocolate. Have your child drop a spoonful of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Add two candy eyes to each spider. Let the chocolate harden. Store the spiders in the refrigerator.

© copyright Trish Kuffner from The Arts & Crafts Busy Book with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.



© copyright Lois Simmie from Kids Pick the Funniest Poems with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

Pom-Pom Spider

A creative Halloween activity by Trish Kuffner

Pom-Pom Spiders


© copyright Trish Kuffner from The Preschooler's Busy Book with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

Fun with Baby before Birth (after 25 weeks of pregnancy)

Picture of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn

by Penny Simkin, PT; et al.

• Every day, sing the same song to your baby or play him your favorite music. He’ll recognize it after birth. You also may want to read the same children’s book or poem aloud every day.

• Talk to your baby. Have your partner lay his or her head on your lap and “speak” to your belly. Your baby is learning to recognize your voices and may respond when he hears them.

• Press on your belly when you feel your baby’s hand or foot push against your uterus. See if he responds to your touch. Try pressing twice (like double-clicking a mouse) and see if your baby mimics your action.

• Shine a flashlight on your belly. See if your baby responds to the light.

Excerpted from: Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide, Fourth Edition

© copyright 2010 by Parent Trust for Washington Children with permission from its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

How to Write a Girls to the Rescue Story

Picture of The Best of Girls to the Rescue—Girls Save the Day

by Bruce Lansky

I came up with the idea of writing Girls to the Rescue stories because so many of Grimm's fairy tales portray girls as beautiful but helpless wimps. So, the main challenge in writing a story of this type is to create a story that showcases a main character who is clever, courageous (rather than witless and helpless). I'd like to suggest that you have your class read some Girls to the Rescue stories, so they'll be familiar with the unique stylistic requirements described below:

1. Main Character: Ask the students to think of ideas (brain storm) possible main characters for their stories. They can use:

  • famous fictional females (e.g., the further adventures of Maid Marion)
  • famous historical females (e.g., a particularly heroic incident in the life of Joan of Arc or Kate Shelley, a brave Iowa girl featured in ("Railroad Through and Through" in Girls to the Rescue #5 - Where There's Smoke There's Fire!)
  • girls from some other country or culture (from anywhere on earth or in the galaxy, for that matter)
  • someone they know (a friend or relative)
  • themselves (something real or fictional that they did or wish they could do)

2. Rescue: Ask the students to come up with ideas for who/what their main character will "rescue". Note that we use a very broad definition of rescue. (It doesn't have to be an action/adventure story. Read "Grandma Rosa's Bowl" in Girls to the Rescue #1 - The Royal Joust for a very emotional rescue.) For example:

  • Maid Marion could trick the Sheriff of Nottingham (as in Young Marion's Adventures in Sherwood Forest)
  • Kate Shelley crawled over a wrecked bridge to warn a train that the bridge was down.
  • A big sister could rescue a cat from a tree.
  • A popular student could help a shy student become accepted by the group.

3. The "Crux":

a) Because the heroine is not only courageous but smart, the rescue should be accomplished in some clever, surprising way. For example:

  • In "Sarah's Pickle Jar" (Girls to the Rescue #3 - Hidden Courage) Sarah used a pickle jar to win a court case for her father.
  • In "Lisa and the Lost Letter" (Girls to the Rescue #2 - Lion on the Prowl), Liza wanted to return a valuable letter to Princess Margaret, but had to figure out a way to get past the gatekeeper and the princess' secretary, both of whom wanted a bribe.
  • In "Carla and the Greedy Merchant" (Girls to the Rescue #1 - The Royal Joust), Carla had to come up with a way to trick a greedy merchant who had cheated her father out of his horse and wagon.
  • In "Temper, Temper" (Girls to the Rescue #4 - Fishing for Trouble), Franceska had to come up with a way to trick the crooked farmer who had taken advantage of her brothers and gotten them to work for nothing.
  • In "Kim's Surprise Witness" (Girls to the Rescue #2 - Lion on the Prowl), Kim proved that a greedy landlord had promised not to evict her family when her parents couldn't come up with the money to pay the rent--even though there was not human witness present.

Needless to say, if the main character is clever, then her "rescue" should contain an element of surprise to the reader.

b) However, some of the Girls to the Rescue stories feature courage beyond what anyone thought the main character could do. For example:

Suggest that your students read these stories so they can understand how important it is for Girls to the Rescue main characters to be clever and/or courageous.

4. Suspense: To build suspense, it's important that the main character not make the rescue quickly or easily--otherwise the rescue wouldn't demonstrate her brains and courage. Suggest that your students' main characters use the "rule of three" to build suspense. For example:in "For Love of Sunny" (Girls to the Rescue #1 - The Royal Joust) Princess Meghan has to do kill the giant troll, kill the dragon and then answer three difficult questions to prove herself to the mean queen.

5. Plot Outline: After selecting a main character and a clever or courageous rescue, ask your students to outline a story idea that shows what happens in the story. This is a good stage at which to test whether the key elements outlined above (an appropriate main character, an appropriate rescue, an appropriate crux) have been established.

6. First Draft: When the main elements have been included in the plot summary, your students are ready to write a first draft. Make sure they understand that you expect them to read this draft to friends and/or family for feedback before writing a final draft which takes advantage of constructive criticism they've received.

7. Publication: Here are some fun ways for your students to share their creative work:

  • Ask them to illustrate their stories (or find art or photos from various sources for that purpose. (No use discouraging kids who aren't confident of their artistic skills.)
  • Ask them to read their stories (or perform their stories as "readers' theatre") for a small group of students or for the entire class.
  • Invite parents or another classroom to enjoy the performances.
  • Donate the books your students have made to the school library, so others can enjoy them. (You might want to find an inexpensive way to "bind" the books so they last for more than a few readings.)
"Budding Author"

Picture of The Children's Busy Book

A creative activity by Trish Kuffner

What you'll need:

Paper stapled together with a construction paper cover OR a small notebook with blank pages OR an inexpensive scrapbook OR a three-ring binder with plastic page protectors OR a hand-bound volume


Let your child write a story along the bottom of each page and illustrate it with drawings, photos, or cut-out pictures.

© copyright Trish Kuffner from The Children's Busy Book with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

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